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Recent Faves from the WFMU Record Library
February 2004

Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

VARIOUS / Greenwich Village's Cafe Bizarre
If you chuckled at some of the more affected vocal readings on the great Rhino Beat Generation box (see Phillipa Fallon's "High School Drag": "We'll be coughing blood on the moon...duh-RAGG!"), this particular document of a 1960's beatnik spot on West 3rd and MacDougal is truly something to behold. I couldn't find any information whatsoever on this thing, but it sure seems real. Basically, EVERY single presenter on here is playing up the swaggering f'd up daddy-o (hear Felix Lupus boldly introduce his piece: "The night...was like a BITCH IN HEAT", while someone named Ellie Girl howls along with bongo accompaniment like a wounded animal). Most impressive is a fellow named Ringo Angel, whose three tracks swell with pseudo-artistic bravado while working out some real issues with women, whom he obviously considers garbage ("How To Put a Broad Down"/"All Broads Are Common") before gathering enough humility to sulkingly pass the bowl around for monetary contributions.

SKYWAVE / Synthstatic
This DC-area trio has made no qualms about admitting their unabashed worship of shoegaze, noisy guitar pop (especially of the Brit kind), despite alt-rock's fashion-shift from My Bloody Valentine influence (as seen in so many 90's indie rock bands) to edgy, angular, danceable Brit-rock pioneered by the likes of Gang of Four (and witnessed in the Rapture, !!! etc. today). They make a hell of a racket, especially with guitarist Paul Baker's wall of fuzzed up, split-signal guitar; while the bass and drums carry the extremely bubblegum-like melodies, Baker creates a huge squall totally reminiscent of the Jesus and Mary Chain's infancy days. Despite the fact that one of his twin amps constantly squeals feedback, what seems like vague clouds of distortion and buried melodies is quite controlled and complementary to the music, in a way like Sightings without the 80's fixation (and with more understandable vocals, though not much less buried in the mix). It all works in a great way, and while they can be critiqued for being derivative, there's something really affirming in their dedication to bringing to life all the notetaking they obviously did on 120 Minutes and honing in on a distinct personal approach to making it their own. Besides, now that Sofia Coppola's made "Just Like Honey" a big song again, maybe the fashion shift will come back to them and get them some exposure. I don't think they mind either way.

ARTHUR RUSSELL / Calling Out of Context (Audika)
On the heels of the recent Soul Jazz label retrospective comes this first of three volumes of unreleased 1980's material from the oft-cited Downtown legend. For the uninitiated, Russell was an Iowa transplant to NYC who brought a very Buddhist approach to his musical activities while swinging from loft-disco scene to avant-garde circles, even reportedly being an early participant in the Talking Heads. He quickly made a name for himself in the NYC scene, and was quite prolific with his open minded approach of incorporating everyday sounds and experiences into his music and lyrics (his primary interest was the cello though by no mean his only instrument) was visionary to say the least. Sadly, his death of AIDS in 1992 left behind much music the world hadn't heard, but thanks to compiler Steve Knutson, a valiant effort to condense 1000 tapes in various stages of completion starts rolling with this disc (taken from an unreleased LP from 1985 and an abandoned mid-80s Rough Trade project). There's some great progressions from Russell's disco-era work into an edgier, noisier terrain (in fact "Platform On the Ocean" could easily fit in with stuff on the latest Wire record), and quite a bit of material it's quite puzzling to know didn't make it to the light of day. Looking forward to more of these in the future.

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